Sunday, July 8, 2007

Harry Potter Fever

For anyone who is infatuated with the adventures of Harry Potter, this month has been a long way coming. The fifth movie – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – will be hitting the theaters in about two weeks, with the final book installment – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – following a week later. For everyone who has wondered how this successful series will end, the seventh book promises to tie up all the loose endings and give us insight into the future of Harry and his friends.

I read the first book - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – during the summer of 1997. At that time the book’s author – J. K. Rowling – was a complete unknown, but I tried the book because of a recommendation from a friend. I was hooked after the first chapter and couldn’t wait for the next books. Book two and three – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – were released in the United States in 1999, so I got a double dose of my favorite characters. By the time the third book was published, Harry Potter had become a world-wide success and plans for a major motion picture were in the works.

The United States release of the fourth book – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – proved to be a marketing darling. Book sellers around the country were having Harry Potter release parties and staying open until midnight the Friday night before release. I remember being at “Girls in Action” mother-daughter camp with Christine, who was getting ready to turn eight, that Friday night, so we picked up a copy as soon as we got back to town. This book was huge – 734 pages – but I had consumed the book by Sunday night. Christine and Keith were listening to the book on tape, so it took them a few days longer to finish the book, and I was not allowed to give away any spoilers until they were done.

The year 2001 did not bring a new book, but most fans were satisfied with the release of the first motion picture. Seeing the entire fictional world on the big screen was wonderful and the imagery was almost exactly the way J. K. Rowling had written them. Although there were many things from the book left out of the movie, it was still a great two and a half hours with Harry and his friends. I still recommend people read the books, because no matter how well done a movie is, the book is always going to be better. The second film installment was released in 2002 and it was also a huge box office success.

There was a three year wait between books four and five, but when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released during the summer of 2003, it was well worth the wait. At a hefty 870 pages, it was a thrilling read, even though it left me with cramped hands. Of all the books to date, this one is my favorite. It is full of action, mystery, love and danger. The characters are growing up and Rowling’s prose has grown with them.

The third movie installment hit the big screen in the fall of 2004, and the sixth book – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – was released during the summer of 2005. I was waiting for the doors to open at Wal-Mart on the morning of the release and I spent the entire day devouring the book. Again, Christine and Keith were listening to the book on tape, so I had no one to talk to about the shocking ending for almost a week. The sixth book proposed more questions than it answered and it left me longing for the seventh, and final, book, which I already knew was going to be at least two years from publication.

The fourth movie hit the big screen in 2006 and this was the first movie that we saw at the drive-in instead of the cinemas. Although it was good as a stand alone movie, I thought there were too many major plot points left out of the film. Because of the length of the book, many characters were scaled back, or not used at all, but I understand the time restraints necessary to get a film on the screen. This is the only thing worrying me about the upcoming release of the fifth movie. The fifth book is the longest to date, and I’m afraid there will be much left out of the movie. I guess I will see in about two weeks.

Even though I am anxious for the next movie, the thing I can’t wait for is the new book. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is to be the final chapter of this series. I have known since the beginning that J. K. Rowling would only be writing seven books, so this will be a farewell to Harry and his friends. My only hope is that all my questions will be answered and all the loose ends tied up by the time I get to the last chapter. The long anticipated seventh book will be released the weekend of Christine’s 15th birthday, and she has been telling everyone that I will be reading all weekend. “Mom is more excited about the new book than my birthday,” she tells people with a laugh. Thankfully, she and Keith will be going on a father-daughter outing in Louisville that Saturday, so maybe I’ll be finished reading by the time they get home. I plan to be at Wal-Mart when the books go on sell at midnight – that will give me all night and day to read.

If you have never read any of the books in this “children’s” series, I highly recommend them. They are for children and adults a like and make wonderful entertainment when read to your children or grandchildren. I also recommend the books on tape which are narrated by Jim Dale, an awarding winning vocalist who uses over 100 different voices for all the characters. His voice is captivating and these tapes or CDs make great entertainment when going on a long road trip or on vacation.

So don’t be upset if the door goes unanswered and the telephone answering machine is on during the July 21st weekend – I’ll have my nose in a book and I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m finished. And if anyone else finishes the book by that Sunday, give me a call because I will be dying to talk to someone about the ending.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, July 2007